From the Record:
Amid the push to expand casino gambling throughout New Jersey, state officials are in fast-moving discussions to take over Atlantic City’s finances for 15 years.
Sparking a turnaround for Atlantic City has been one of Governor Christie’s goals since taking office, and a takeover would be the most dramatic step yet – a move largely unprecedented in state history.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, confirmed Monday night that discussions were under way between legislative leaders and Governor Christie.
“Something dramatic has to happen in Atlantic City,” Sweeney said. “When I say dramatic, I mean dramatic, because of the dysfunction that’s been going on year after year.”
The Record also obtained copies of two draft bills outlining the terms of the state takeover. The bills, obtained from a source in the Legislature, were set to be introduced today.
Christie, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has envisioned a wholesale transformation of the city from a gambling destination to a tourist resort. Early in his administration, Christie pinned the city’s hopes on a $261 million tax break for the Revel casino. That casino later filed for bankruptcy.
Separately on Monday, Christie announced another deal with Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to allow two casinos in North Jersey, provided that the new casinos send a large cut of their revenue to Atlantic City as financial assistance.
Asked about the possible state takeover, a spokesman for Governor Christie, Kevin Roberts, said he would “not comment on pending legislation, let alone bills that haven’t been introduced yet.”
Administration lawyers, however, are aware of the discussions, The Record learned Monday.
And Christie is due to deliver his annual State of the State speech today. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday morning, Christie said he would have big plans to unveil but gave no details.